O.C. Accused of Exporting Its Woes to Inland Empire


Need to build a new county jail but no local community wants it? Perhaps it could be placed in Riverside County, Orange County officials say.

Floods on the Santa Ana River? Federal flood-control plans for Orange County call for raising the Prado Dam in Riverside County and stopping flood waters there.

Need money to build more car-pool lanes on the Riverside Freeway? Orange County wants to pay for it with a loan from--you guessed it--Riverside County.

And what about John Wayne Airport--swamped with demand but hemmed in by angry and powerful neighbors? Build a big new regional airport in San Bernardino County, Orange County officials recommended this week.

More and more these days, political leaders in Orange County are looking to less developed regions of the Inland Empire for solutions to some of their stickiest problems. While their counterparts in Riverside and San Bernardino are divided on the merits of individual projects, some are becoming increasingly concerned about whether the benefits are worth the cost of importing someone else's urban woes.

"At times, we do feel like a dumping ground," said San Bernardino County Supervisor Marcia Turoci. "People moved up here for a quasi-rural lifestyle."

Among the most skeptical is Riverside County Supervisor Norton Younglove, who charges that, "Orange County has a talent for trying to put their problems on someone else if they can get away with it."

Orange County Supervisor Thomas F. Riley, however, said the reaction he's observed to proposed billion-dollar public works projects such as a big regional airport or jail has been only positive.

"Right now to my knowledge there is not only a very harmonious relationship, but an active feeling of, 'We'd like to have you come aboard,' " Riley said. "We're offering an economic boon to them."

But fellow Supervisor Harriett M. Wieder agreed with Inland Empire officials that Orange County has been trying to "dump" some of its projects on Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Wieder said that both the jail and airport proposals were drawn up before officials from those counties were consulted.

"I think it's an insult," Wieder said. "We would not like it if someone did that to us."

Wieder added that regional planning is essential to solving common problems such as transportation, jail space and overcrowded airports. In the case of a regional airport, she said, Orange County needs to sit down with its Inland Empire neighbors and work out a suitable plan. Riley said that's exactly what Orange County will be doing.

Riley said he understands the concerns of people in the Inland Empire. But he added that Orange County has no choice but to look outside for solutions to its problems. "Orange County is filled up," he said.

Strapped for cash and left with little room to grow, Orange County has begun looking to its eastern neighbors for solutions to some of its more pressing problems:

Orange County Supervisor Don R. Roth is heading up an effort to study building a new Orange County jail in Riverside County, given vehement residents' protests against such proposed Orange County site alternatives as Gypsum Canyon in Anaheim Hills.

The jail, which would be used by Orange, Riverside and possibly other interested counties, would be located in the desert of southeastern Riverside County. Officials of Orange and Riverside counties are still studying the proposal.

Faced with the worst flood threat west of the Mississippi, Orange County is helping to finance a $1.4-billion project that would raise the height of Prado Dam in Riverside County to protect the heavily developed flood-prone areas along the Santa Ana River in Orange County. The project calls for enlarging the size of the reservoir behind the dam and paying more than 300 property owners in Riverside and San Bernardino counties whose land be flooded as a result.

Orange County transportation officials have asked Riverside County to consider a loan of about $20 million to build double car-pool lanes along the Riverside Freeway. Riverside County has money for its share of the project because voters have approved a local transportation sales tax plan. But in congested Orange County, where voters have rejected such tax measures, the project is unfunded.

Riverside County residents "just can't believe that Orange County won't pay their share," said state Sen. Robert B. Presley, D-Riverside.

"That's a ridiculous proposal," said Riverside County Supervisor Patricia (Corky) Larson. "It has about as much chance of flying as us putting a man on the moon." Any loan would be contingent on passage of a state gasoline tax under Proposition 111 and the approval of Riverside County voters.

An Orange County governmental staff report Tuesday ruled out using any of four largely local sites recommended for a regional airport but called for more study of a remote location in San Bernardino's Mojave Desert.

The Orange County staff endorsed using George Air Force Base, near the town of Adelanto about 80 miles northeast of Anaheim. The Pentagon plans to close the base within three years, and Orange County officials are hoping that a proposed high-speed train between Anaheim and Las Vegas could be used to deposit air travelers at the desert airport. Riley said it would take 22 minutes for the train to travel between Anaheim and Adelanto.

Although Adelanto city officials have wholeheartedly endorsed the proposal of a "mega-hub" airport, there is divided opinion among local residents and within the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on whether the airport is such a good idea.

Supervisor Turoci, on the one hand, said she anticipates vigorous opposition to the idea from many local residents. Turoci said many residents of the surrounding High Desert area moved there to get away from the kind of noise and congestion that a regional airport would bring.

But Barbara Riordan, chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, applauded the airport notion, saying there was enough "buffer" air and land space around the base to appease residents. Riordan, though, said she would be less enthusiastic about a proposal to dump garbage in San Bernardino County, as has been envisioned by some Los Angeles area communities.

Although Orange County has made no such proposal, Turoci said there is a growing feeling in the Inland Empire that the coastal communities are attempting to ship them their problems.

Officials at the Southern California Assn. of Governments (SCAG), a regional planning agency in Los Angeles, acknowledged that there is growing resentment in the Inland Empire toward Orange and the other coastal counties.

"The eastern counties have said they don't want to be the site where all the undesirables are located," said Mark Pisano, SCAG's executive director.

In Riverside County, some residents are cool to a proposal to construct a regional jail in a remote desert area 50 miles east of Palm Springs. The residents say they are already upset over a proposal to haul trash from Los Angeles County to a disposal site near Eagle Mountain.

"They view it almost as the same thing--you're dumping your prisoners on us," Presley said.

But Riverside County Supervisor Larson said a new jail could create more jobs and businesses. "Most people who first hear it say, 'Well, that's a dumb idea. Why would we take Orange County prisoners?' " she said. "But then they hear about what it can offer and say, 'Well, let's talk about it.'

"Most people have a wait-and-see attitude."

Larson also said that the jail could provide additional space for Riverside County. Under the proposed plan, Orange County would pay to build the facility and Riverside County would lease space in the jail for its prisoners, she said.

Larson said that it also will have to be proven that building the jail in the desert would result in a substantial savings over constructing it in Gypsum Canyon or Santa Ana. A preliminary feasibility study has indicated that Orange and Riverside counties could save about $120 million if the site is in the desert.

A proposed new Orange County jail is also drawing heat within Orange County, where county officials are considering building a new facility in the Gpysum Canyon area of Anaheim Hills.

The cities of Yorba Linda and Anaheim--as well as the nearby Riverside County city of Corona--have all registered stiff opposition to the Gpysum Canyon proposal. And a citizens' group, Taxpayers for a Centralized Jail, has qualified an initiative for Tuesday's countywide ballot that would block the construction.

The initiative, Measure A, would require that all future jail sites in Orange County be in the county seat, Santa Ana, and that all ongoing efforts to expand facilities outside Santa Ana be stopped. The initiative will go into effect if it passes by a simple majority of the voters.

The proposal to raise the water level behind the Prado Dam has quite naturally generated stiff opposition from homeowners who stand to lose their houses. And while many in Riverside County say they recognize the need for flood control, they point out that the Prado Dam project will mostly benefit Orange County.

"Because the flood control does not serve Riverside County, it's hard for our people to see why they have to lose their homes," said Bill Garrett, city manager of Corona, where some of the threatened homes are located.

In Riverside County, Supervisor Kay Ceniceros complained that Orange County has not fully participated in regional groups such as SCAG where it could have sought regional input on its jail and airport problems. Orange County has had an antagonistic relationship with SCAG and has even tried to form its own regional planning entity out of a belief that SCAG was too oriented toward the interests of Los Angeles.

"Unless Orange County is willing to sit down and negotiate with other regional agencies, then they should look at Laguna Beach and all of South Orange County to house all their things," she said. "We will not be dumped on by Orange, Los Angeles or any other county. . . . They should not assume that their decisions can be made unilaterally."

Orange County is forced to act on its own behalf in seeking solutions with neighboring counties because SCAG does not fully represent its interests, said Monte Ward, manager of governmental and community relations for the Orange County Transportation Commission. Ward said Orange and other Southland counties have resorted to working out deals between themselves as a result of the "vacuum" that he said exists in regional planning.

SCAG Director Pisano denied any such vacuum and rejected the idea that his agency is inordinately focused toward Los Angeles.

In working out deals with its Inland Empire neighbors, though, Orange County may be put in the position of having to offer something in return for their cooperation.

"There's going to be a price tag, and it's going to have to be adequate to cover the impact," said San Bernardino County Supervisor Larry Walker. "If Orange County needs something and the only place they can get it is in Riverside County or San Bernardino County, we will have some bargaining leverage."

One bargaining chip could be Orange County's support for the proposed Cajalco Road Corridor, a thoroughfare that would run through the Cleveland National Forest between the two counties. Some Orange County officials oppose the plan, while many Riverside County officials favor it.

All sides express optimism, though, that deals eventually can be worked out in each others' favor. "Real cooperation," Larson said, "comes from people sitting down as friends and not people sitting down and jockeying for power."

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